The allure of Mother Nature extends beyond RVers to affect their traveling cat companions too. The combination of fresh air, fluttering birds, and newfound freedom makes the great outdoors very intriguing to felines of all personalities. Give your beloved pets the ability to venture beyond the trailer with a DIY “catio”! Building a window porch for cats will not only enrich their lives, it will also give you peace of mind knowing your cat is content, yet confined, and protected from predators. And when the cats are happy, the campers are too!
What is a Catio?
A catio is a custom cat enclosure along the exterior of a dwelling that allows for an indoor cat to enjoy an outdoor playground whenever they please. These catteries are conceptualized as cat patios and they most often boast a one-of-a-kind design uniquely tailored to fit the home or RV. While prefabricated kits are available for purchase, you won’t get nearly the same level of customized styling like you would by doing it yourself. So let’s get building, we’ve got cats to please!
Start with a Plan
Catios come in all shapes, sizes, and designs, so get creative and think outside the box as you make your building plans. Research different containment systems to see what other cat lovers have crafted. You’ll notice that some designs have intricate tunnels while others more closely resemble a square-like terrarium converted to foster a more feline-friendly environment. Freestanding enclosures have four sides and typically connect to the house with a tunnel feature. Ground-level enclosures have three sides, with the open side attaching the wall of the home where the cats enter and exit the catio. Another option, and likely the most conducive to an RV, is the window perch design which mounts to either the siding or window trim. Although these can vary is size, they are typically the size and shape of a window-mounted A/C unit. You’ll also want to make sure that the materials you use are lightweight and that your construction allows for disassembly so it can easily be stowed when you and your cats hit the open road.
The walls of your catio will need to be made out of some type of fencing or screen so that your cats can see their surroundings and fresh air can travel freely through the enclosure. Chicken wire or mesh screen will provide plenty of visibility for your cats, while also keeping them safe and contained. Two-by-four boards can be used to establish a frame, but because PVC piping is a more lightweight and easier-to-disassemble material, it might be a smarter alternative for those planning to bring their catio on the go. As another alternative, an old dog kennel can be repurposed to give you the starting infrastructure of your outdoor cat sanctuary.
Cats are clever and curious little creatures, so if there is an opportunity for them to escape the enclosure, they will most likely take advantage of it. If you leave your roof exposed, crafty cats will climb their way up the walls and out to freedom. For this reason it’s best to cover the top of your catio as well. Enclose the roof with a polycarbonate ceiling cover, wire mesh, chicken wire, or even bird netting. If your catio is in direct sunlight, consider putting a solid board or tarp over a portion of the roof to provide shade.
The size and design of your catio will effect its interior contents, but here are some basic ideas to get you started on transforming your cat cage into a feline kingdom! First, make sure your entry and exit point is accessible with either a ramp feature or kitty-cat door. Hang shelves for climbing and perching. If you have room, add a carpeted cat tree and put their litter boxes inside as well. Your cats don’t care if the materials you use are top of the line. Look for second-hand items and freebies to keep both you and your cats happy. Complete the interior of your catio with a potted planter of catnip!
Now that your catio is complete, reveal your creation and watch your cats enjoy! Share your one-of-a-kind DIY “catio” with us too by posting a photo in the comments or on Instagram!